My FirstTrip to Haiti
Thalia N. Cayetano
My trip to Haiti (January 5-12, 2008) was a humbling and learning experience. I came back to America fully reminded that we have so many things to be thankful for. Even the most difficult times in our lives may be nothing compared to the life in Haiti. While in Haiti, I wanted to give the poor my “everything”- even my “nothing”, for I knew that their “nothing”, compared to mine, is hopeless and permanent.
I arrived at the PORT-au-PRINCE airport under a scorching heat of the sun on January 5, 2008. Two nuns from the congregation of The Little Sisters of St. Therese took me to St. Louis church for the Sunday Mass. The streets looked narrow because vendors and pandhandlers were almost everywhere. I saw mothers sitting on the pavement soliciting for alms while nursing their newborn babies.
After the Mass, we visited two houses of the nuns at Port-au- Prince then drove off to RIVIERE FROIDE – the place where I would officially lay my hat while in Haiti. This urban-poor community is where many of the nuns live including the mother superior and the other elected officials of the congregation.
The following day, we drove off to PETITE RIVIERE, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Riviere Froide. Around 51 orphaned children and 15 abandoned adults greeted me with songs, dances, and warm embraces. I spent one peaceful night with the orphans in Petite Riviere with a kerosene lamp that died out and a mosquito net that fell on my face in the middle of the night.
On the fourth day, I was on the road again with the mother superior for a seven-hour drive to BARADERES, where we paid a visit to a clinic and a school of 412 students and 12 teachers. The roads were almost impassable or impossible but I think praying the rosary and chewing pieces of sugar cane helped us survive the tough roads.
Another two-hour drive from Baraderes would take us to another poor community called FOND-TORTUE. The parish here also runs a clinic and a school.
The roads in Haiti are very poor. Two-way traffic may not apply as pot-holes and sharp rocks determine which part of the road the drivers must use. Our journeys to Baraderes and Fond-Tortue were particularly toilsome as our truck continuously shook and jolted through rocky and narrow roads. Crossing a running river with our truck was unbelievable! I could feel the truck-wheels milling around and grinding through stones and gravels with so much difficulty.
All the places that I visited in Haiti are afflicted by poverty. The Catholic nuns have so many programs to help the poor, the sick, and the dying in Haiti but they do not get enough donations to keep their projects running. Often times, the workers in the schools and the other mission houses do not get paid due to the scarcity of funds.
Electricity is almost non-existent in Haiti and the schools, clinics, sanitariums, and other mission houses do not have easy access to water.
One thing that I noticed was that the people of Haiti are rich in the things that are important to most of us like love, friendship, patience, and respect. They are also very appreciative. I did not see any graffiti (or no walls to write on?), which is common in the third world, but I saw names of donors engraved on the front walls of a few cemented houses.
I may have many stories to describe Haiti’s poverty but along with these adjectives that illustrate their suffering is a sincere intention to let anyone know that our sufferings, misfortunes, and problems may be nothing compared to the Haitians’ life- long sufferings. Millions of people die due to lack of basic necessities of life and is definitely a challenge to anyone of us at this time.
We think that giving is a sole responsibility of the wealthy, but no. Each of us always has something to give to the needy. It is not only material that we can give. We can give a smile or a kind word or deed. We can start simple acts of love and kindness in our homes – where charity begins.
We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We may be different in race, color, origin, and religion but we all come from One Father, our God, who wants all His children to care for one another, healing the wounds of poverty through love.